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SOC101Y1 Study Guide - Final Guide: The Sociological Imagination, Erving Goffman, Al-Qaeda

10 pages63 viewsWinter 2012

Course Code
Robert Brym
Study Guide

of 10
3/22 Lecture
**I decided to try a different note taking technique so no point form in this one****I didnt make it
to the last lecture and hence could not post it. I got the recording and now can give it to someone
who doesn't still have it**
Colonel Paul Tibbets, USAF, waves from the cockpit of the B-29 Super fortress that he nicknamed
“Enola Gay,” after his mother. About four hours after this photo was taken on 6 August 1945,
Tibbets dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima, killing 200,000 Japanese. Social scientists and
historians like to think of that day (august 6th, 1945) as the day that divides the 20th century in half.
This is because before this time, people thought scientific technology development improved
human life. (Technology is often defined as the application of scientific principles to the
improvement of human life).
With the bomb drop in Hiroshima, however, pessimism started growing. In fact, the pessimism of
technology started early, during the development of the nuclear bomb and only strengthened after
World War 2. This is because, a series of technological disasters struck, which caused the eyes of
many people to open up (one example is of the Bhopal incident). Influenced by this thinking, one
sociologist introduced the concept of Normal Accidents. These occur because the very complexity
of modern technologies ensures they will inevitably fail, though in unpredictable ways (ex: our
windows 7 computers are very complex and they end up crashing).
In a risk society, technology distributes danger and advantage among all social groups, although
some groups are more exposed than others are. This danger doesn’t result from simple normal
accidents, but there are more widespread and chronic threats, like environmental factors, which
can lead to a risk society. These environmental threats can be incited by our advancement of our
technology. However, environmental threats are much more ambiguous as compared to direct
technological threats. Certain environmental threats, caused by technological advancement, are
finally beginning to be accepted in our societies (like global warming, ocean layer depletion, green
house effect, etc.). We clearly now have problems. However, how can we solve these problems? A
great deal of sacrificing is necessary on everyone’s part, in addition to improved and changed
Global warming and Polar Ice:
Fossil fuel burning to create energy is a concept that has increased dramatically since the industrial
revolution. This burning however creates many gases which start collecting in the atmosphere. The
sun heats the surface of the earth constantly, and the surface reflects a lot of this heat back into the
atmosphere. Where under normal circumstances, the heat would leave the earth, more and more
heat enters the atmosphere than escapes become some of it is absorbed and some of it is reflected
back by the blanket of heat-trapping gases. Heat melts ice, revealing tundra, which creates even
more effective heat-trapping gases are produced and released into the atmosphere. Water reflects
less heat than ice does because it is darker, which essentially speeds up global warming.
The average surface temperature given in the world fluctuates from year to year, but the trend is
certainly upwards, at least from 1960 and on. After 1960s, there is a much more significant upward
trend in the amount of CO2 (heat trapping gas) in parts per million by volume. So what? This leads
to more flooding, poor air quality, more frequent storms, and erosion of land. This essentially leads
to more deaths of people through not just storms, but also inability to cultivate land to grow food.
Looking at NASA calculations, we find that the Global Warming effects began in the northern
hemisphere, before they started spreading to the world. This climate change has resulted in a
decrease in the sizes of polar ice caps, and consequently increased sea levels. Nevertheless, global
warming is not only increasing the risk of flooding in the world, it is also leading to ocean
acidification due to the high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Genetic Pollution: There has also been an increase in Genetic pollution. Genetic pollution refers to
the health and ecological dangers that may result from artificially splicing genes together.
Recombinant DNA is a technique that involves artificially joining bits of DNA from a donor to the
DNA of a host. This has been done in the past, where people have combined the DNA of fireflies
and tobacco plants, such that the final result has been glowing plants at night. This is however
ancient history! There is much more research being done, which can allow for amazing new
innovations. There is a possibility of being capable of eliminating all genes, which cause disease in
humans, or even helping in agriculture, mining, etc. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that
there are risks that are also resulting through this DNA modification. For example, there is more
and more use of DNA modification in agricultural facilities. They are producing products that are
more resistant to bugs, temperature, etc. However, there is a simple evolutionary fact that works
against this DNA modification. Bugs, and pests (weeds) that are more capable of attacking and
affecting the modified plants, will grow in numbers as other more conventional bugs would decline
in number. This would lead to a greater concentration of pests that are now immune to the
modified product, and if these bugs spread diseases, they would probably spread diseases that are
hardier and immune to conventional medication drugs.
Differentiating between an issue and a problem, an issue tends to be something that needs to be
fixed. A problem, or more specifically, a social problem, is what the world claims to be an issue and
shows concern in reducing the scope of this issue. Environmental issues become social problems
when three main conditions are met. First, policy-oriented scientists, the environmental movement,
the mass media, and respected organizations discover and promote the issues. Without this step,
there is barely any recognition of the issue. Second, people must connect real-life events to the
information learned from these groups. Individuals have the tendency to only care for things that
matter to them. If they can relate to these advertised environmental issues, their awareness and
desire to eradicate the issue will strongly increase. Third, scientists, industrial interests, and
politicians who dispute the existence of environmental threats must fail to convince the public that
the threat is illusory and human intervention is unnecessary. When these conditions are met, only
then are we capable of concluding that an issue has become a social problem.
Different countries, different classes, and different areas receive different degrees of damage from
the same environmental threats. For example, if a tornado strikes, trailer parks are likely to have
received the most damage, as compared to houses made of stone. A researcher divided the United
States into different zip code areas. He found the proportion of black people, white people and
hispanic people in each zip code area. On average, zip code areas that lacked blacks and Hispanic
people had smaller chances of having toxic dumpsites, landfills, etc. Conversely, toxic dumpsites,
landfills, and other facilities of this sort generally tended to exist more in areas that were populated
with less white people and more black and Hispanic people. Looking at a Canadian example, we find
that provinces that have higher particulate matter (air full of pretty much gunk, carcinogens, etc.)
tend to exist in provinces that have higher proportions of aboriginals. This increased tendency to
heap environmental dangers on the disadvantaged is a phenomenon known as environmental
Fort Chipewan is a 250 km long downstream along the Athabasca River from the industrial centre
of the Alberta tar sands. This stream contains tons of toxic sludge, which is seeping into the
Athabasca River. Athabasca River usually is a source of water and fishery for many people living
near its banks. The toxic sludge is causing the fishes to become more and more deformed, as well
as making it dangerous for people to use the water from the river. Looking at Toronto, we find that
there is a strong correlation in the amount of pollution in the air of specific areas, and the amount
of poverty in these areas. Areas of toronto that have high poverty also tend to have high levels of
pollution in the air. Conversely, areas populated with people that are not in poverty tend to have
low levels of pollution in their air.
We have another interesting phenomena to consider. If you look at the total carbon dioxide
emissions in China, we find that China is the worlds leading carbon dioxide producer. However, if
you look at the CO2 emission per capita, we find that China is not so bad. Rather, the most
irresponsible countries in the world are United States and Canada. Many of the world’s richest
countries are still doing the most environmental damage, if seen by per capita basis. However, the

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